Born from Finnish parents in Sweden in 1973 (her father Finland-Finnish, mother Finland-Swedish), poet Cia Rinne spent her childhood in Germany, and thinks of German, even before Swedish, as closest to a “native” language. She also speaks English, French, and Italian, and has studied Greek, Rumanian, and Spanish, along with philosophy and history, in Germany, Athens, and Helsinki, and after living for seven years now in Kirkkonummi, Finland (together with her Danish husband, Joakim Eskildsen, a photographer: at home, he speaks Danish, she Swedish) she is able to communicate in Finnish as well. For several years, Cia and Joakim have been working on a project to document the life of present-day Gypsies in several European countries from Greece to France and Finland – turning, it seems, the sociological “participatory observation” into “artistic participation” (a book of photographs by Joakim is scheduled to come out in Germany next year).
While you won’t see her work reviewed in Finnish newspapers, or even literary magazines (the only exception being this thoughtful piece by Fredrik Hertzberg, originally published in the Swedish language Hufvudstadsbladet), to me, Cia’s multi-lingual background alone is enough to make her an ideal utopian Finnish poet of the day – ideal in that it really is only from a mixture of viewpoints like hers that anything like a “realistic” picture of the present “Finland” can be thought of, and utopian (I was about to write: tupo-ian; the Finns will get the joke) because the general respond of Finnish poetry to this “challenge of globalization” may well come to be precisely the opposite: more isolation, more Finnish-isms, and new Finn-nichisms, and Finni-schisms.
Be that as it may, zaroum, Cia Rinne’s book from 2001, printed and bound in Finland by Karisto Oy, published with the support from, a.o., Föreningen Konstsamfundet, Finland (and thus definitely a Finnish book), is one of the most beautiful and carefully-thought-out works of poetry to come out anywhere near here for a long time.
zaroum (the references of the title range from the Russian Formalists’ catchword “Zaum” – for “transrational” language – to the word “warum”, German for “why”) is not your usual poetry book almost in any way. To begin with, it is difficult to say where it’s individual “poems” begin or end. Likewise, it is not written (if it is written: I will return to this) in any one recognizable language: most of it’s words are (or seem to be: this is one of the book’s exquisitely poetical qualities: that language is made visible in it) in German, French and English – but there are also fragments (all the writing in the book consists of fragments) of other languages, including Finnish. The individual pieces often effect a certain sliding from one language to other(s), like here:
where you have (at least) English, German, French, Italian, and Swedish; elsewhere, the reader will encounter fragments of Russian, Greek, Finnish. These slidings are often visual and acoustic at the same time, as in this beautiful, a bit cummings-like couplet:
but to me, the most interesting quality of the work is a certain “third” layer, superimposed on the visual and aural, that could be called topologico-conceptual. There are pieces that seem to consist of diagrams – of boxes, lines, circles, flow charts – and others, where these interact with more ordinarily semantic elements. One effect of this is that even on the (relatively rare) pages with “just text”, the lay-out (relations of “up” and “down”, space between elements etc.) begins to acquire a “meaning” of its own – as if everything was surrounded by / divided into invisible boxes, circles, or free-form shapes. In my present reading, all this underlines an important Primat of thinking over language: the poet is not “guided” by words and their meanings, but rather by certain pre-existent models and ideas, which she seems to be testing against the material (and materiality) of language(s). What she then “discovers” in and between languages, is not “truth” (let alone the “sameness” of languages (“nine” <> “nein”)), but rather a certain in-adequacy, a slowness, a resistance from the part of language to “thinking” – so that in the end, one could as well talk about the Primat of language, as in this quote from Wittgenstein, figuring in the book, typically, either as an individual “piece” or (one of two) stanza(s) in a page-poem:
“Man sollte Abschied nehmen von einer Formulierung wie ‘ich denke’, und statt dessen sagen, ‘dies ist ein Gedanke’ und dann tritt man zu diesem Gedanken in Beziehung.”
which I guess can be interpreted as in idea of “language thinking (and writing)” for us, or instead of us. So which one comes first? Cia seems to leave the question open – but not so much like a box – or a book! – than a door: to go in and out, always in Beziehung, in relation, to both of those nodes. So that, finally, one is left wondering about the fundamental materiality of both language and thinking – the latter often, and convincingly, seeming to reduce itself (yes, not to writing, but) to simple, pre-linguistic gestures, as on this page where onward and backward spelled backwards seem to point to the same destination: